BY VANESSA GONYE/FARAI MATIASHE
DOCTORS at public hospitals have turned down a 60% salary rise offered by government and vowed to go ahead with their planned industrial action starting today to press for a better offer and an improvement in their conditions of service.
The latest strike, which is likely to trigger bloodbath in the country’s already strained public health system, follows three similar industrial actions by members of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association (ZHDA) since President Emmerson Mnangagwa (pictured) assumed power nearly 18 months ago.
But the Health Services Board (HSB) accused the doctors of “Nicodemusly” going behind their back to declare a stalemate after they had signed up for a 60% pay rise.
“The HSB has learnt with disbelief and surprise by the doctors’ intended strike letter which they presented to HSB on Friday. Doctors are now singing a different tune a day after signing the agreement. The records of the bipartite meeting held on Thursday August 29 do not show any dissent from any members of the health apex council,” said HSB spokesperson, Rachel Tryfine Dzukutu, responding to the notice by doctors to go on strike.
“The agreement was signed by the apex leader following an outcome of a vote by all apex representatives; this is what the apex leader told the government representatives at the meeting.”
NewsDay last night learnt that the HSB had summoned ZHDA president Peter Magombeyi to an urgent meeting to stop the strike. Mugombeyi said that he would not back down on the position taken by the association.
He said accepting the 60% increment would compromise their chances of bargaining for a better offer.
“What the response from the HSB says is true, but they are failing to get the correct point. We said we accept the offer, but it still renders us incapacitated and until this (incapacitation) is solved, we are going ahead with the strike until we are offered something meaningful,” he said.
In December last year, doctors went on a six-week job action over poor conditions of service.
Previously, they had downed tools over similar grievances, before they were cowed into submission by suspected State security agents.
Some ZHDA executive members yesterday claimed they had received threats from anonymous callers, suspected to be State agents.
“Some State agents are threatening to kill us, and we have been called several times to accept the offer they are extending to us as a salary increment though it’s actually nothing, but a meagre stipend,” one of the doctors, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.